The last two weeks in December, I
went downtown a few more times than usual. Some trips were planned,
others were spontaneous. Twice, I brought my daughter with me - she's
heard about my volunteer work but, until now, has never had the
opportunity to join me.
One night, we'd been out to dinner at
Portillo's. I try to make sure I bring the pink bags with me whenever I
know I'll be going downtown and this night was no exception. We
decided to walk around and see if anyone in need was out and about. We
saw a man on his knees, doubled over.
"Help me. Please. Somebody
please help me," he moaned over and over again. His name was Levi and
he hadn't eaten in days. After making sure he was alright, I gave him
our left-overs, nearly half a pizza. We also gave him socks,
deodorant, hand warmers and a few McDonald's bucks. We walked on.
we met an older man, homeless and very, very drunk. Due to his
intoxication and, we later learned, arthritis, he was unable to get up
by himself. I braced my legs, offered him my hand and gently pulled him
up. We chatted a while. He was in good spirits and thanked me for
treating him like a human being. I hear that a lot. It makes you
wonder what's happened in a person's life that causes him or her to
thank you for treating them like they're human, you know?
we made our way up Michigan Avenue, we passed out socks, toothpaste,
and deodorant here and there. We walked past an indoor ATM kiosk and,
in the window, I saw a homeless woman curled up and sleeping soundly.
My daughter asked if we should go wake her but I thought it might be
better to just let her sleep. The police would come along soon enough
to make her move and I just hoped she could get a little rest until
then. Did I make the right decision? I honestly don't know. But I
truly hope and believe in my heart that I did.
last person we met that night was a man who was standing in front of
Water Tower Place. We found him hunched over, leaning on a walker,
plastic bags wrapped around his bare feet. The temperature was 23
degrees outside. Again, I was astounded by the number of people who
walked by without even glancing.
His name is Martin. I asked how his
feet were doing; he confessed he hadn't looked at them in several days.
He needs special orthopedic shoes. I'm still working on trying to
find him a pair. Thank goodness he does have a pay-as-you-go cell
phone; I got his number so I can call him occasionally and make sure
You know, a
few things jump out at me when I'm out helping street people. First,
as I mentioned earlier, the number of people who walk by without even
seeing them. It takes my breath away. The other thing is that,
although I've been criticized occasionally for the work I do, I'm glad
people see me out there. It never fails - someone always comments and
says, "that's a good thing you're doing."
I can't help thinking that,
for every person who says it, there are at least five others who are
thinking it as they see me out there with my pink bags. I don't say
this to brag or show off. I just hope it has a positive impact when
people see me living my belief: Be the change you want to see in the